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Lassa fever outbreak: Poor state of National Virology Centre worries doctors

Barely 48 hours after two doctors and a nurse reportedly died of Lassa fever in Ebonyi State, medical doctors under the auspices of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), have come out to say that the poor state of the National Virology Centre, at the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, remains a source of worry to them.

Ebonyi State Commissioner for Health, Daniel Umezurike in Abakaliki Monday, told journalists that three persons had reportedly died of Lassa fever outbreak in the state.

This was disclosed at a protest in Government House Monday in Abakaliki by the doctors led by the Treasurer of the Ebonyi State branch of the NMA, Dr Onwe Mbam.

According to Mbam, “it is highly regrettable that every year one or two health workers would die in the course of doing their job in the face of an outbreak and this has made it very hard for us to work in certain places because of poor facilities in our health facilities in the country”.

Mbam, who pointed out that the intention behind the establishment of the Virology Centre by the Engr. Dave Umahi’s administration in 2015 was to ensure that urgent and challenging health issues as this the state witnessed three days ago, was contained by all means medically possible, but however, wondered why such relevant facility was left unattended by stakeholders.

Governor Umahi, built and donated the centre to the Federal Government in September 2016 through the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki and it was inaugurated by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.

Read Also: Nigerians not serious with lassa fever eradication – NACAMA President

He said it was undemocratic and a sheer neglect of critical national facility by the Federal Government of Nigeria to have abandoned the centre to a point where, according to him “nothing works there”.

“Now, in the virology centre, Lassa fever cannot be effectively and efficiently managed due to lack of requisite equipment and reagents in the centre.

Patients are being referred to Irrua Specialist Hospital, Edo State for definitive diagnosis and treatment and treatment at the centre is based on presumptive diagnosis using markers that are not sensitive for Lassa fever”, he said.

Three days ago, Dr Sunday Abel and Iwe Innocent, a nurse died at the teaching hospital Abakaliki, while Dr Feli Ali died in Irua Hospital, Benin in Edo State. Ali was from Ebonyi state; Abel was from Akwa Ibom state, and Iwe is from Imo state.

While addressing the doctors, the senior special assistant (SSA) to Governor Umahi on Health Services, Mr. Sunday Nwangele said the state government was already involved in series of meetings that would ensure that such endemic health challenges were professionally and adequately handled in future.

Nwangele, who sympathized with the medical practitioners for losing their colleagues, disclosed that the governor had engaged internationally recognised medical experts to ensure that the centre was up and running, adding that it would be wrong to say that the state was folding its hands in the midst of this emergency situation.

“One of the ways you know a good government the world over, is what it does when the lives of its citizenry is at stake. Our Governor, since this situation came up has been engaged with various health stakeholders to mitigate this matter in future.

“You just have got to be patient and wait and from tomorrow, you would see what is being done in this regard. Medical experts with international recognition have been contacted and the whole idea is to see that these issues that are of utmost concern at the centre are sorted out once and for all,” Nwangele added.

The latest reports and development in the health sector, confirms Daily Times report in 2017 that abandoned health centres litter the South -east, even as citizens lament.

Edward Nnachi, Abakaliki

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